When I was in elementary school, my parents splurged on a membership to the Catholic Youth Book Club. I was an avid reader, and we lived quite a distance from the library—so each month I’d thrill to tear open the box which arrived in our mailbox, and to reveal the new hardcover biography of one of the saints. I collected the books on a shelf beside my bed, and I read them over and over: adventures of great missionaries, heroic martyrs, and noble young women.
One of my favorites was Kateri Tekakwitha: Lily of the Mohawks. My grandparents once gave me an Indian doll with tiny beaded necklace, and I named the doll “Kateri”—which was, after all, a derivative of my own name, so I felt a special kinship toward her.
Kateri taught me bravery and fidelity. Raised by her uncle after her parents and brother died of smallpox, she converted to Christianity despite the disapproval of her family. She was chastised by her kinfolk for her religious zeal, and she added mortifications of her own to increase her sanctity. Kateri often slept upon thorns or walked on hot coals, and she offered her pains in union with the suffering of the crucified Christ.
When her Mohawk kin threatened her life, Kateri fled to an established community of Native American Christians in Quebec. There she lived a life of prayer, penance, and care of the sick and aged. She took a vow of chastity, and she died at the young age of 24. Her last words were “Jesus, I love you.”
Kateri Tekakwitha was beatified on June 22, 1980, by Pope John Paul II, and canonized on October 12, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI. Her feastday is July 14.
PRAYER TO ST. KATERI TEKAKWITHA
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, our elder sister in the Lord, discreetly, you watch over us;
May your love for Jesus and Mary inspire in us words and deeds of friendship, of forgiveness and of reconciliation.
Pray that God will give us the courage, the boldness and the strength to build a world of justice and peace among ourselves and among all nations.
Help us, as you did, to encounter the Creator God present in the very depths of nature, and so become witnesses of Life.
With you, we praise the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Amen.
Holy founders of the Church in North America. Pray for us.
With permission of the Ordinary of Saint-Jean-Longueuil August 10,2012.
Image: St. Kateri Tekakwitha statue By Dieterkaupp (Own work)